With its unique solar street lighting project, Su-Kam Power Systems has brightened up the lives of thousands of villagers in Gabon, one of the many power starved nations in Central Africa. Prior to this project, the local population, comprising primarily of bush-men and hunters, had never experienced the power of electricity.
“There were villages where power cables had never ever been laid!” says Mr Dinesh Verma, senior manager with Su-Kam’s global business services, who was part of this project. The locals’ lives came to halt as soon as the sun set.
How it all started
The seeds of the project were laid in 2012 when the Olam Group, which works on several land and industrial development projects with the government of the Gabonese Republic, turned its attention towards the power needs of the local villagers. Recognising Su-Kam’s leadership role in the solar energy space, the company approached the global services team to do the needful in Gabon.
- Kango (350 kms from Libreville)
- Mouila (1200 kms from Libreville)
- Bitam (900 kms from Libreville)
The ground reality before Su-Kam’s team reached Gabon
“Most of the villagers live around the main road as there are no facilities elsewhere. Lack of power not only hampers employment but also compromises security,” says Mr Verma. Before 2012, sun down meant leaving aside all essential chores. It also meant that people couldn’t venture out in the dark even to socialise.
The team decided to light up the main road, which would allow children and the youth to study and also ensure the security of families living there.
Solar street lights: configuration
- 11 watt CFL bulb
- 75 watt panel
- 75 amp battery
“Even if there is no sunlight for three days, the lights will continue to work,” says Mr Verma
The Su-Kam team faced a lot of challenges while working on the project, and yet they found ways to complete the tasks successfully:
- Incessant rainfall: “It rains for nearly seven to eight months in Gabon. So much so that it feels that you are sitting under a waterfall,” says Mr Verma. The nonstop rains hampered the team’s work regularly. “We would dig a hole in the evening, only to come back in the morning to find it filled with water. So, we had to wait for it to dry up to continue,” says Mr Verma. The rainfall would prompt locals to abandon work on the site as well. “They knew that if they fell ill as a result of getting drenched, they would not recover due to lack of medical facilities,” says Mr Verma. However, with patience and systemic workflow, the team was able to finish the project successfully.
- Language problem: The locals were unskilled and only understood French. The Su-Kam team faced a hard time communicating with them. “Suppose a technician has climbed up a pole and wants a local to pass the screwdriver. How to communicate that to the locals working on the site? Hence a task that would have taken an hour ended up taking thrice that time,” says Mr Verma. To overcome this problem, the Su-Kam team garnered a working knowledge of French and also imparted a functional knowledge of English to the locals. The team also taught basic and advanced skills to the villagers to help them maintain these lights in the future.
How has the project changed lives?
“Food and electricity are the two major issues in the lives of the Gabonese and we helped solve the latter to some extent,” says Mr Verma. From the reports that he gets from Gabon, it seems that the villagers are happy as their lives are secure and employment is unhampered. “Since 2013, we have been sending 400 to 500 lights annually to Gabon. This clearly shows that the project is working and benefiting the locals,” says Mr Verma.